Pentagon nominee Lynn clears U.S. Senate hurdle

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 5, 2009 6:43pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - William Lynn, a former Raytheon Co lobbyist who needed a waiver from new administration rules aimed at closing a "revolving door" between contractors and government, cleared a hurdle on Thursday to becoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates' deputy.

The Armed Services Committee voted to recommend Lynn's confirmation by the full Senate "en bloc and by voice vote," said Tara Andriga, a panel spokeswoman.

At the same time, the committee endorsed the nominations of Robert Hale to be an undersecretary of defense and chief financial officer; Michele Flournoy to be undersecretary for policy; and Jeh Charles Johnson as general counsel for the Department of Defense.

Gates welcomed the vote on President Barack Obama's first four nominations to senior Pentagon jobs, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

"From waging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to building a budget in the midst of this economic crisis, there are a slew of pressing issues here at the Pentagon and the secretary needs help from the new team as soon as possible," he said in a statement.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has left open the possibility of using his senatorial privilege to hold up Lynn's nomination.

Lynn served as the Pentagon's chief financial officer from November 1997 to January 2001 under former president Bill Clinton. Then as an executive at Raytheon, the Pentagon's No. 5 supplier by sales, he was a registered lobbyist from July 2002 to March 2008.

"Mr. Lynn's past performance at the Department of Defense raises many concerns for Senator Grassley, let alone the possible conflicts of interest with a big-time defense contractor that have been brought to the attention of the American people by President Obama's new executive order on this issue," a spokeswoman for Grassley said.

(Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Todd Eastham)

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